A Quilter's Guide to the Blue Ridge Mountains
If you've known us for any amount of time, you probably already know that we LOVE the Blue Ridge Mountains...specifically in North Carolina! I went to nursing school at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC....which is where my love for this area originated! Peter grew up at the beach in Oak Island, NC and outside of a few family vacations in the area, he didn't really spend that much time in the mountains until he met me. (I still hang my hat on the fact that I'm the reason why we love the area so much, haha!) Since we've been married, we have made dozens of trips to various parts of the Blue Ridge mountains and as always, I like to share little snippets of our trips on social media. It never fails, I always get lots of questions about where we stayed, places to eat and things to do....so I figured it was time for a little blog post. I'm throwing in a few "quilt-y" topics just to make it relevant but really, this post is meant for quilters and non-quilters alike!
I'm breaking down all of this information by location starting in the north and working our way to the south. Know that we will roughly be following the path of the Blue Ridge Parkway, so I HIGHLY encourage doing that if you can!
Grayson Highlands State Park, VA
Okay, okay. This isn't in North Carolina, but it's so close to the NC/ Virginia border that I HAD to include it. We have had the privilege of visiting Grayson Highlands twice now and let me tell you....it will never get old! Grayson Highlands State Park is located in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. It's about 3.5 hours NW of Raleigh, NC. My favorite thing about this state park are the WILD PONIES! The views are amazing too, but overall, the entire experience is just magical. Here are some highlights:
- Favorite Trail: Twin Pinnacle Trails was definitely my favorite. I also recommend checking out Massie Gap for the ponies! Also be sure to stop by the Grayson Highlands Visitor center for info on more trails. They also have a neat little gift shop and information section that is really interesting.
- Place to stay: I would definitely consult AirBnB for this. The first time we visited, we camped at the campground in the park for 2 nights. The second time, we stayed at this AirBnB. Be sure to carefully read the description for this one! While it was a lot of fun, it was definitely a little rugged.
- Eatery: This area is not a destination for food, that's for sure! There are hardly any (that I know of) restaurants in this area. I recommend bringing some easy meals and snacks. We made several visits to the Corner Market Cafe for breakfast, gas, internet and snacks!
- Word to the Wise: Cell phone signal can be spotty in this area. We spent most of the trip without signal, so I definitely recommend having a plan before you get there and just keep your phone packed away in your suitcase. :)
The quilt seen below is my "Mountain Horizon" quilt pattern at the top of Little Pinnacle in Grayson Highlands.
West Jefferson, NC
I'm going to be honest, I debated mentioning West Jefferson in this post, simply because we've only been there once and it was in passing. I think we spent a total of 3 hours there, but it did leave an impression! Located 3 hours west of Raleigh and 2 hours NW of Charlotte, West Jefferson is a cute little mountain town that boasts a lot of charm!
- Favorite thing to do: Visit the Ashe County Cheese factory. Apparently this is a big deal, haha. Or it was at least to Peter! Unfortunately, the day that we visited, the factory was closed, but we were able to go to the store and pick up some REALLY delicious cheeses. I promised Peter that we would come back so that he can get the full experience with the factory tour. :)
- Another Favorite thing to do: If you visit on a Saturday, be sure to go to the Ashe County Farmer's Market! There were so many wonderful things including live bluegrass music, fresh fruits and veggies and handmade items. I picked us up this gorgeous set of hand-carved spoons. We stopped and talked with the gentleman that made these spoons and it was really neat to hear his story.
- Coffee: Again, since we didn't stay for very long, we didn't really stop and eat any meals. We did enjoy walking around a good bit and looking at all of the small shops. Of course, we did so with coffee in hand. We really liked Bohemia!
Blowing Rock is this absolutely adorable little mountain town outside of Boone, NC. Their downtown area has so many adorable little shops and while we only spent a few hours there, we fell pretty smitten with the area! We did, however, visit Mountain Thread Co. which is owned by my friend, Katherine. She is extremely talented and has built an amazing shop! Again, since we were just passing through, we only had time to stop at her shop, but we would love to go back one day!
- Where to Stay: We actually stayed in Banner Elk, which is close by (and also close to Boone, NC). We stayed at a REALLY neat place called the Glass Treehouse. This was for our anniversary, so it was a little bit of a splurge, but it was totally worth it!
- Hiking: This is really close to the parkway, so again, there are a lot of really great hiking opportunities. We visited Julian Price Park and Cone Manor when we were there, which I highly recommend!
- Quilt Shop: Mountain Thread Company is not just a quilt shop, but she sells DIY Rope Basket kits as well! It's right in the heart of downtown Blowing Rock, so it's very walkable....and adorable!
Below, I'm rocking my vintage quilted fanny pack from Anemone VT in downtown Blowing Rock! Isn't it cute??
Here's a peek inside Mountain Thread Company!
So Asheville is one-of-a-kind... truly a unique gem! I actually lived in Asheville my senior year of nursing school back in 2012-2013. Since I was mostly studying and attending clinicals, I didn't get to enjoy the city *quite* as much as I wanted to. That being said, we've visited Asheville several times a year since I've lived there and it's safe to say that it never gets old! You might've heard about Asheville's artsy vibe or edgy nature....aside from there being plenty of things to do and see, there are SO many ridiculously delicious, award winning restaurants! If you are a foodie in any time of way, you MUST visit Asheville. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Restaurants: Since there are so many amazing ones, I'm going to break it down a little....
- If you want the best doughnuts you've ever tasted, be sure to visit Hole! They're light and airy and have the most delicious flavors!
- Biscuit Head has delicious biscuits that are the size of a cat's head.
- Sunny Point is one of my favorite spots in West Asheville that I visited frequently in college. Love their breakfast!
- Hands down, White Duck Taco Shop is our favorite lunch spot in Asheville! It's right by the French Broad River, so you can sit by the river and enjoy your taco. The Thai Peanut taco is my favorite, while Peter love the Shrimp taco.
- Baby Bull is a new restaurant that just opened a month or two ago. We visited the last time we were in Asheville and it was delicious! I'm not a huge fan of burgers, so I got the Vada Pav, which is like a potato fritter sandwich...YUM. Peter got the cheeseburger and loved it. For sides, you HAVE to get the fries & aioli....it'll rock your world!
- Rocky's Hot Chicken Shack is a fan favorite for my dad and Peter. ;)
- My all time favorite is Nine Mile. Ohhhhh, I could eat Nine Mile for the rest of my life and be a happy camper. They serve Caribbean/Italian fusion ....and let me tell you. It's DELICIOUS. My favorite is Jamaican me Thirsty or Irie Ites. To be honest, we usually get several dishes and have lots of leftovers.
- All Souls Pizza is a really yummy pizza spot! We've only been once but we loved it.
- Curate is a really delicious tapas bar. Again, we've only been once because I normally beg to go to Nine Mile every time we are in town, but Curate is also really great!
- French Broad Chocolate Lounge is such a good spot for coffee and dessert! Highly recommend!
- Double D's is a double decker bus that is converted into a coffee shop in the middle of downtown. We have a lot of college memories here. :)
- Things to Do: Biltmore is a classic.
We also love to tube down the French Broad River when it's in season. There's a company called Zen Tubing that provides tubes and handles transportation to a sight upriver. You spend a few hours floating back to your car and it's marvelous!
If you're a thrill seeker, we've also done zip-lining through Navitat, which was a lot of fun!
And if you love antique shopping, I HIGHLY recommend visiting the Antique Tabacco Barn. It's a massive warehouse with a lot of really cool finds.
- Hiking: Since Asheville is off the Blue Ridge Parkway, there are a lot of really great hikes close by! Craggy Gardens is a really great area with a few different trail options. If you're down for a little bit of a drive, Waterrock Knob on the parkway is one of my all-time favorite spots! Mt. Mitchell is close by too!
- Breweries: Asheville has the most breweries per capita in the US! I've also heard it nicknamed as "Brew City, USA". New Belgium, Wicked Weed Funkatorium (if you like Sour Beer) and Sierra Nevada are a few of our favorites. If you like ciders, Bold Rock is in Mill River, which is close by. There's also Hi Wire, which used to be Peter's employer!
- Hotels: We've stayed at a few hotels in Asheville, but we do prefer AirBnb's. If you are looking to stay in downtown check out Hotel Indigo and Aloft.
- Charming Farmhouse - This is one of my all time favorites. Each morning was super misty and beautiful. The hot tub was nice and we saw lots of deer up close to the cabin.
- 1800s Cabin - If you are looking for a more rustic experience, we stayed here several years ago and had a lot of fun!
- Hillside Cabin - We recently stayed here and it was such a neat experience. It was a new build, very clean. It's definitely more "away" from everything, so you have to drive a little bit to get there, but we never mind a scenic drive. :)
- There are so many great options on AirBnB's website. We haven't stayed at this particular place, but it looks awesome!
- Quilt Shops: Asheville Cotton Co., 5 Little Monkeys Quilt & Sew, Beginnings Quilt Shop (Hendersonville), Foam and Fabrics (Fletcher)
Black Mountain might be the cutest little mountain town to ever exist. The downtown area has lots of small shops and restaurants. It's quite frankly adorable. We like to stay in Black Mountain when we are visiting Asheville, just because it has that quaint, small town vibe. But over the last year or two, we've been visiting Black Mountain as the destination. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Louise's Kitchen is a really cute breakfast spot that we visit quite frequently! Be sure to try the jam!
- Four Sisters Bakery has lots of yummy baked goods...we go there for bagels!
- Blue Ridge Biscuit Company is just your traditional southern breakfast kind of place...we really liked it!
- Black Mountain Kitchen & Alehouse serves the best fried chicken sandwich around!
- Worldly Weiners has house made sausages & burgers. Their onion rings are really good too!
- Cousin's Cuban Cafe is authentic Cuban food and really great customer service! We got their breakfast and it was delicious. We went back a few weeks ago for lunch and we are big fans!
- My Father's Pizza is a CLASSIC. It's a well established family restaurant that is right in the heart of downtown Black Mountain. I highly recommend the bruschetta and meatballs! Any of their pizzas are amazing.
- Black Mountain Bistro is a really nice locally owned bistro!
- Trailhead Restaurant & Bar - We haven't been yet, but we've heard that it's a really good "elevated bar food" place.
- Cup of Jomo is in the "low town" part of Black Mountain right across from Louise's Kitchen. It's a part of the WNC Outdoor Collective, which is a group of outdoor companies all in one building. The vibe is really neat and my latte was delicious!
- Dripolator Coffeehouse is always really busy whenever we visit. And rightfully so....everything we've gotten has been great and I love the building that it's in.
- Things to do: I love just walking around Black Mountain. The streets and shops are very walk-able with lots of places to stop and explore. Of course, Asheville is close by if you want to do something like go tubing or visit the Biltmore. If you are looking for a really easy walk around a pretty lake with some mountain views....visit Lake Tomahawk!
- Hiking: There are a lot of good trails in this area! Visit All Trails for a breakdown. We recently did the Lookout Trail and it was super rewarding. I would definitely rate it as "difficult" since most of the trail is straight uphill. There's some scrambling at the end too, but the final view is worth it!
- Where to Stay: We've only ever stayed at AirBnB's in Black Mountain and they've all been great!
- In-Town Getaway - This was one of my favorite places to stay in Black Mountain. We actually stayed here a few nights for my 30th birthday. It sleeps 10 people, so it was a little overkill for us. But it has a gorgeous rooftop view, a hot tub, sauna and plenty of room to spread out and relax. Plus, you can walk to Fresh to get really delicious pizza!
- Boutique Black Mountain Bungalow - This was another favorite of mine!
- Eco-Home - This was a great clean and affordable option.
- Yarn Shop: It isn't *quite* a quilt shop....actually, it's definitely not a quilt shop, haha, but if you like to knit or crochet, the Black Mountain Yarn shop is really nice and everyone seems so friendly and helpful!
Waynesville is about 30 miles southwest of Asheville and it's another cute little mountain town. It's definitely much larger than Black Mountain, but the downtown area is adorable none-the-less! Waynesville is located at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains national park...so there's lots of outdoor things to do as well! We've only been to Waynesville once, so our experience is a little limited but here's what we recommend!
- Breakfast: Orchard Coffee has excellent coffee and breakfast. Peter still talks about his breakfast sandwich, haha. I got the toast with strawberries, basil and honey. So good!
- Lunch: Haywood Smokehouse
- Dinner: We went to The Sweet Onion when I was in college and I remember it being very good! Boojum Brewing is another good spot for small plates.
- Things to do
- Cataloochee Valley- This is an area of the Great Smokey Mountains that is rich with nature and historic beauty! We've visited this area several times and every time I'm always amazed by what I see! There are elk, turkey, black bear, lots of varieties of birds...it really is an amazing place! The views are gorgeous and there are several place to get out and hike if you wish. Not to mention, the historic churches and school houses are really neat to visit.
- Barbers Orchard - You can't pick your own apples, but they have the most delicious assortment of apples already picked for you! We also love getting baked goods here too. The apple fritter and apple cider doughnuts are delicious!! It's really close to the parkway, so we always group both visits in one trip.
- Driving on the Parkway and visiting Waterrock Knob is one of my FAVORITE things to do. It literally never gets old! Be sure to bring a picnic because you'll want to stay all day!
- Places to stay - We stayed at The Mountain Nook Air Bnb...and it was nice! Had a hot tub, was close to town....we loved it! The Pisgah Inn is also semi-close by. It always books way in advance (rightfully so) so you'll definitely have to plan ahead to stay here. The views are absolutely incredible.....Pisgah Inn is on our bucket list!
- Hemp Hill Road Trail - We loved this hike! The views at the top were absolutely incredible. Definitely read about it before you decide to do it!
- Looking Glass Falls is a little bit of a drive from Waynesville, but it's a really gorgeous waterfall! It's not really a hike....more like a short walk from the car. :)
- Frying Pan Mountain Lookout Tower is a must visit spot! The hike itself is only 1.5 miles round trip. It is pretty consistently up-hill, but I think it's still rated as an "Easy" hike. We were pretty scared to go up on the tower, but once we started it was absolutely worth it!
- Quilt Shop - Waynesville has a quilt shop called Quilter's Quarters. We didn't stop in when we were there but a few followers recommended it to us!
We've never really visited Franklin as a destination, but I know about it because it is close to where I went to college and also because of Walker Quilt Co. She long-arms many of my quilts and she's located in Franklin. I'll mostly mail my quilt tops to her, but I've also visited her shop in person if we are in the area.
- A Stitch in Time is really popular. Admittedly, I've never been inside, but I've heard that it's a great shop!
- Andrea of Walker Quilt Co. owns a long-arming studio and is right next door to A Stitch in Time. Any time we know that we are coming to the area, I try to plan ahead and think about what quilt I'd like Andrea to qulit for me! She has several long-arms and also offers classes for those who want to learn how to operate them. If you're in the market for a long-arm, she's also a Handi-Quilter dealer. Additionally, she has some modern fabric and quilt patterns for sale.
- Sassy Stitches is another quilt shop in the area.
We love Bryson City because of how close it is to the Smokies! For the last few times that we've visited, we've done about the same thing each time, haha. It just doesn't get old! Here's our itinerary:
- Places to Stay - We've stayed at Time Flies On the River about 3 times now. It has a hot tub and a nice view of the river. There's also the Hemlock Inn...we've never stayed there, but our familiy has and they love it!
- Things to Do
- Take a ride on the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad.... we loved this! We actually did a Moonshine tour and it was a lot of fun. Their train museum is also really neat, if you're a train person.
- Visit the Nantahala Outdoor Center. They have whitewater rafting and zip-lining.
- Walk around downtown Bryson City...there are a lot of really cute shops!
- Driving into the Smokey Mountain National Park is an extremely scenic view! I highly recommend driving up to New Found Gap.
- The Deep Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is really nice. There's Juneywhank Falls, Tom Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls.
- Soco Falls, a double waterfall near the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Mingo Falls is really pretty too!
- Nantahala Brewing - We've eaten there a few times. It's just your typical bar food.
- High Test Deli - I honestly don't remember what I ate here, but I do remember a KILLER lemon ice cream sandwich that I got for dessert. I would 100% recommend going, just for their ice cream sandwiches!
Highlands is probably our favorite "treat yo'self" getaway! We always stay at the same place because it just never disappoints.
- Places to Stay - We absolutely LOVE Half Mile Farm!! We've stayed in the Woodland Luxury King Balcony room a few times (love it!) and most recently, we stayed in the Tavern Suite Cabin. When we were there, there was snow on the ground and it was just perfect. This is a kid-free inn and while there isn't a restaurant on campus, we usually just eat their bar food. We might get take out somewhere if we are feeling up to it.
- Waterfalls - You MUST visit Dry Falls. It's not really a "hike" per say, but you can walk down to the waterfall and get really close to it.
- Restaurants - I'm a little shocked to say this, but I think we've only eaten at one restaurant in Highlands....which is Madisons. It's a little bit upscale from what I remember. I think we celebrated Peter's birthday there one time. Again, usually when we go to Highlands, we are staying at Half Mile Farm, so we usually just eat there.
This blog post actually comes at a good time because...... WE ARE MOVING TO THE MOUNTAINS!! Shocker, right?? haha. I bet you didn't see that coming.
We've always dreamed about what it would look like to move to the mountains. The biggest variable has always been our jobs. With me being a NICU nurse, that limited my opportunities to just the Asheville area, since it has the only NICU in the Western part of the state. With Peter being in the hospitality industry, he could basically get a job anywhere. While the logistics aren't *that* involved, we still felt somewhat obligated to stay in Raleigh, NC, for sake of convenience. As many of ya'll know, we both officially became full time with Lo & Behold in 2020. With that came the realization that there really isn't anything holding us in our current city. One day when we were driving home after spending a few days in the mountains, we both asked ourselves....what's the point? Why are we driving "home" to a place that we don't really love? We have the great privilege of being able to work from anywhere, so why don't we live where we love? Life is too short and we want to take full advantage of every opportunity that we can.
So we did.
We recently closed on a fixer-upper cabin in Black Mountain, NC! It's about 60 years old and it needs a good bit of updates and repairs. Compared to our current house in Raleigh, it has a lot of things lacking....reliable internet, strong cell service, trash pick-up, postal service, the list goes on. But what it DOES have is an incredible view, privacy, access to nature and it's literally about 10 minutes to downtown Black Mountain! We are also ~30 minutes to Lake Lure and Chimney Rock and 20 minutes to Asheville. The cabin is NOT near an airport and a busy street like we are in Raleigh; and honestly, it's the view that sold us.
So yeah! It'll definitely be several months before we move in full-time. We want to get as many renovations and repairs done as possible before we make the move across the state. Ekkkk! I can't believe this is happening.
I'll be taking everyone along for the journey over on Instagram so be sure to follow along if you are interested. :)
Thanks for reading, everyone! I hope this post gives you a starting point and inspiration for your next trip to the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains!